Miscellaneous Ramblings

PhotoWorks: A Low End Digital Image Solution For 35mm Users

Charles Moore - 2003.01.27 - Tip Jar

I've used PhotoWorks (formerly Seattle FilmWorks) for most of my photo finishing needs since the early 1980s. In those days, their "house brand" film was Eastman 52xx 35mm movie film repackaged in standard 35mm still camera cassettes, the idea being that you could get prints and slides from the same negative. The movie film thing was partly economics - surplus movie film was cheap.

I was reasonably satisfied with the respooled 35mm movie film stock, but more recently PhotoWorks switched their house brand film to standard C-41 negative film as well (for both prints and slides), and the new PhotoWorks film, which is made by a European supplier, is actually quite good. It is available in ISO 100, 200, 400, and 800 speeds. For all-round general use I like the ISO 200 stuff.

I have a (very) small digital camera now, but for high-quality work I still use my trusty old 1974 Olympus OM-1, for which I have a small but nice collection of lenses.

SFW's service also a means of getting my 35mm shots digitalized conveniently.

film

When you mail exposed film to PhotoWorks, a few days later they email you a URL at which you can view your developed photos on the Web. The physical prints and/or slides are returned to you by mail. You can also forward this URL to family members and friends so they can enjoy your snapshots.

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PhotoWorks will store your photos for free on its server in "Standard Resolution" (768 x 512 pixels) so long as you send them film for processing at least twice a year. Your PhotoWorks photo archive is password-protected, and PhotoWorks claims that they archive more personal images than any other company in the world. They also offer higher-resolution (1500 x 1000 pixel) scans for download on CD-ROM for customers who want to include their photos in online documents, greeting cards, or to print with their computer printer.

At a 1.5 megapixel scanning resolution, SFW's Hi-Res Pictures On Disk are suitable for printing smaller images (up to 5" x 7" should look tack sharp) from your computer. If you order prints and/or slides but do not purchase a Pictures on Disk CD or pay a surcharge for high-resolution, your Website images will be scanned at the lower 768 x 512 resolution. Both versions provide a 24-bit color depth (16,777,215 colors).

Image files downloaded from SFW's PhotoMail are compressed into a single file using the company's proprietary PWP file format. This way, you can download your entire roll at once (although it is also possible to download single images or a selection). Once you download a PWP file, you will need PhotoWorks' free PhotoWorks Desktop software, which can be downloaded from their Website, to decompress it into individual images. No browser plug-ins are required for downloading PhotoMail.

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For Macintosh users, PhotoWorks offers two software solutions to help you manage your PhotoWorks files:

PhotoWorks v1.0.1 (a 300k download) opens and converts .PhotoWorks' proprietary pwp and .sfw files.

Minimum requirements for the Mac version include OS 8.6 or greater, with the Quick Time extension installed, a 150 MHz 604 PowerPC processor or higher, 16 MB of available RAM (64 MB or greater recommended), 100 MB of available hard disk space, and color or grayscale monitor.

An Adobe Photoshop Plug-In (142k download) enables you to open .sfw files in Photoshop

For more information, visit the PhotoWorks website.

Unfortunately, PhotoWorks Desktop - at least the Mac version - is not the most polished or user-intuitive graphics software. It does the job it's intended to do and can export photos in compatible formats so you can work with them in your favorite Mac image editing program.

There is also a third-party PWP Plug-in module from Brian Beardmore for the Macintosh version of GraphicConverter. The plug-in extracts and opens individual pictures from PWP archive files.

The current PWP Plug-in release is version 1.0b2. There is support for both 68K and PPC versions of GraphicConverter.

System Requirements

  • Macintosh operating systems version 7.6 through 9.1 supported.
  • Both 68K and PPC GraphicConverter versions are supported.
  • The plug-ins work with GraphicConverter v4.0.8 and various other older versions.

PWP Plug-in Version 1.0b2 (68K & PPC) is a 196k download, and available from Realistic Software.

PWP Plug-in is freeware, but donations are appreciated.

Brian Beardmore also used to distribute a free beta of an application called SFW Helper, which was a more user-friendly substitute for PhotoWorks' own Mac application. However, Mr. Beardmore posted a notice on his website earlier this month noting:

"Most all of the software here expires today. It is currently unknown if I will be publicly re-releasing the software. For those of you who have supported me, I will try to get a private release together for you soon.... Unfortunately, giving the software away for free and asking for donations has not been successful in covering the rising costs of the expenses (web host, domain name, software development tool upgrades, new Mac OS upgrades, and new MacOS hardware). I am open to new ideas of how to cover the expenses.

"I do understand that some of you users are frustrated that the software is no longer usable. I simply do not have the time to do another release of the software right now... If and when I do have new releases, I will update the web site. If you feel that 'SFW Helper' application keeps you using the services of photowork.com, then email photoworks and let them know you need application like it."

PhotoWorks offers the following services:

  • Film Developing - 35mm color print film, preloaded cameras and APS. You can still get prints and slides, or just prints, or just slides from the same film.
  • Pictures on CD
  • Prints from Digital images on Digital Media Cards or CD-ROM
  • Upload photos from you digital camera for storage or printing
  • Online Albums
  • Traditional Reprints from negatives
  • Traditional Enlargements

A nice touch for Canadian customers like me, PhotoWorks provides pricelists and order forms in Canadian dollars and has a Canadian mail drop in Vancouver, B.C., for their Canadian film mailers.

For full details and prices, visit <http://www.photoworks.com/Info/Details.aspx>.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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